A year ago everyone was talking about blockchain, bitcoin, and the upcoming "cryptocurrency revolution." There was raging debate online about whether bitcoin was a bubble, with passionate arguments on both sides. Since then the price of bitcoin has gone down significantly, but the technology behind bitcoin has not.
I was one of those lucky people that got on the bitcoin bandwagon at the right time, before the fall. I had always felt a little bit wary of the price, mostly because I could see from my research that there were still very few interesting applications for the blockchain, and therefore little reason to believe the price would stay high forever. For the few applications that did exist, they simply didn't have enough people using it to justify the skyrocketing value of the cryptocurrency (this is an oversimplication, feel free to comment, but I don't want to get too much into the nitty gritty here).
Most of my research on existing blockchain applications came from a website that serves as a hub for blockchain applications both old and new is called "State of the DApps" (www.stateofthedapps.com) . All sorts of different applications are featured on the site, from virtual worlds to trading platforms to social networks to crowdfunding pages.
For those who might be reading this that don't fully understand blockchain, now would be a good time to get a little background before reading further. On a very high level, blockchain can offer users a far more private experience than on the web, because rather than all of your data existing on one server that is controller by a corporation (i.e, Facebook/Google) that can access it at any time, it is "distributed" across all of the machines of the users that are using that website/application. Still confused? This video explains it better than I can.
There are a few types of applications that seem to be more popular among blockchain developers: Security, Governance, Digital Wallets, Storage, and Games. A great deal of the applications are also alternatives to existing platforms: for example, Actifit is a fitness tracker that has the added bonus of rewards in the form of "tokens" for a healthy lifestyle. Another example is Busy which resembles Reddit except users write posts and then get paid based on the number of upvotes they receive.
Both of the above mentioned applications run on a blockchain called Steem. In their own words, "Shareholders of social media platforms made billions of dollars from user-generated content. The content creators? They made nothing. Steem flips the model and returns the value to the people who contribute the most." According to their website, Steem has already paid out over 59M in rewards to users since June.
However not all of the platforms that pay users for content run on Steem. Another example is Cent, which runs on Ethereum and calls itself an "incentivized creativity exchange." There are games which run on Ethereum also, such as CryptoRome, where you start out with a free plot of land and use "strategy, politics, and strength" to turn your little plot into an empire while competing with other players.
Hopefully these few examples illustrate just how diverse and exciting the world of distributed applications is becoming. I highly encourage you to check out the website for yourself and explore. It's quite possible I will be writing more articles on this subject in the future, but for now I think this serves as a good introduction and summary.
To this day I credit "State of the DApps" for opening my eyes to all of the creative and interesting ways one could apply blockchain technology to solve different problems and create alternatives to existing technologies. I myself only got as far as making a relatively simple pet shop app where one could adopt an obviously-not-real pet following along with a tutorial on Truffle (https://truffleframework.com/tutorials/pet-shop). You can check out the code for this app below on my github:
A distributed pet adoption web app built for the ethereum blockchain
Run "npm run dev" in command line to run web app locally
In a separate terminal window, run "testrpc" command which will connect to local instance of (test) blockchain
Make sure you have MetaMask installed in Chrome, and copy/paste your Mnemonic HD Wallet password.
Open the MetaMask popup in your browser, make sure you have localhost:8545 selected in the top right dropdown menu.
Hit forgot password and paste in your Menmonic HD Wallet password you copied earlier.
Now you should be logged in and be able to adopt pets and approve/decline the transactions inside of your MetaMask extension.